Filed under: Interview
Whether you realise it or not you already know who Alter Ego are. You will have heard their hit single Rocker at a club, at the hairdresser, on the radio or maybe even in the doctor’s waiting room. You are the slightly bemused deer and Alter Ego are the rapidly approaching semi trailer with the distorted basslines emitting from the stereo. Love them or hate them it is impossible to avoid the Alter Ego phenomenon.
But what about Roman Flügel who makes up one half of this gargantuan duo? We’ve all torn up the dancefloor at least once to his infectious Geht’s Noch? but what fuels the hamster turning the wheel inside his head? He has just released a collaborative album with jazz artist Christopher Dell. As he toured Japan to promote Dell & Flügel’s Superstructure album we had many questions we wanted to ask the German artist who produces under many alter egos.
After much struggling Higher Frequency finally strapped Roman to the examination table and started probing, anxious to find answers to all of our questions.
Interview by Nick Lawrence (HigherFrequency)
HigherFrequency (HRFQ) : How is your Japanese tour going so far ?
Roman Flügel : Very well. It’s been nice. I’ve been coming here since 2003 and from the first day it has been a pleasure. I always wanted to come to Japan because I always liked the food. I like the people and once I got here I felt totally warmed to the country. That’s the reason I come here so often. Last year I came twice and this year once. The people who invite me make it very easy for me to come back.
HRFQ : What were the crowds like in Osaka ?
Roman : Crazy. People in Osaka are very emotional I think. It’s just a very familiar atmosphere there for me.
HRFQ : This is your Japan tour for your new album, Superstructure.
Roman : Yes it’s the album on Laboratory Instinct, the new Dell & Flügel album.
HRFQ : Is there a world tour coming up ?
Roman : No, not at all. It’s just for Japan this time. It just happens to come together with the album actually. I think I would have come even if there was no album.
HRFQ : Superstructure has a much more jazzy or organic sound than anything by Alter Ego, how did this project start ?
Roman : Well actually there was a third person who knew Christopher (Dell) and me even though we had never met before. He thought it might be a good idea to ask the both of us to do something together. So we exchanged numbers and we were both very excited about the idea because he was coming from a jazz background and I was doing only electronic music for a while. We met in the studio for two sessions over two days and that’s how the album came up.
HRFQ : So you weren’t purposefully trying to find a different sound ?
Roman : No, it was more of a jam session. Very organic as you said. It was a challenge to mix electronic music and improvised music but once you have a very good jazz musician like Christopher it makes it a lot easier.
HRFQ : What has the reaction to the album been so far ?
Roman : Very good. It’s totally different people who are getting a connection with things I do and also with things Christopher does. That’s the main thing, to bring different scenes together.
HRFQ : Do you think it is strong enough to merge two scenes together ?
Roman : Well…I know it’s not that strong but it’s strong enough to reach some people. That’s the most important thing.
HRFQ : We are sure everyone is asking you about the positive aspects of releasing a single like Rocker, but we’d like to know what some of the negatives of producing such a huge track are.
Roman : I don’t know. Maybe some people thing that Alter Ego is just about Rocker and some people think that we have to come up with another one next year or they’ll forget about us. It is still a huge track and it helped a lot. So for me there are not too many negatives.
HRFQ : Do you think it was a positive thing not just for Alter Ego but also for dance music in general ?
Roman : Yeah, I think so. It is always positive to have a kind of crossover track and it was one for a long time I think. Before that there were many people who only played techno, or house, or trance, or whatever and suddenly there is something that everyone can play and it makes people happy everywhere. At the end of the day that is a good thing.
HRFQ : Do you think there will be a track on the next Alter Ego album that manages to crossover ?
Roman : Hopefully. I mean it’s not something that we try for. We have done music before Rocker and we will have music afterwards.
HRFQ : Alter Ego has a very energetic show, are there going to be any live performances by Dell & Flügel ?
Roman : Hopefully. We’ve started to talk about it but it’s a lot harder to bring everything together. First of all he is touring all around the world and so am I. But hopefully we will do something next year.
HRFQ : What will we see in that live performance ?
Roman : For me it is a totally different setup I think. Normally I don’t work with a computer on stage but for Dell & Flügel it will have to be done on a laptop. Dell will show up with a microphone, that’s for sure. I guess we can do some kind of improvisation on stage. Using things that come from the album but we will be able to do something new on top.
HRFQ : With Alter Ego’s live sets what are you actually doing up there on stage?
Roman : Well we don’t have a laptop on stage as I said. We have an old sequencer and a sampler and different synthesizers, drum machines and very old effects machines from the 70’s, like analogue delays and stuff. So what I do is I have a basic arrangement for the tracks but then I can jump around with this arrangement and I can setup new loops. We do a lot of work on the mixing desk, working on the sound, we work on the effects and that’s it basically.
HRFQ : How about in your DJ sets ? Do you use effects at all ?
Roman : Not at all. I just use vinyl and that is it. I’m very old school. I love vinyl.
HRFQ : What about your equipment in the studio, what are you using ?
Roman : In the studio we have an Apple Macintosh at the centre of everything and lots of different equipment. But finally we go through an old analog mixing desk and then onto the DAT or CD or whatever. It’s not 100% digital, we still have some analogue aspects.
HRFQ : Are you using Ableton at all ?
Roman : No, I use Logic. Well I use Ableton from time to time to change the sounds in an extreme way then I put it through the sampler or into Logic. So it isn’t the software that is at the centre.
HRFQ : Why do you decide to put everything through the mixing desk at the end? Do you think it gives your music a better sound ?
Roman : First of all we are very much used to that process. I don’t know, we like to work on those big old knobs I guess. Maybe that is the main reason. In the end I think it gives a certain edge to the sound so that is what I like. It’s nice to have some distortion from an analogue device rather than distortion from a digital console. It doesn’t sound that good.
HRFQ : As well as your own productions you do a lot of remixes for other artists, how do you go about altering these tracks ?
Roman : It depends on the basic tracks we get. Sometimes we just use the vocal for example because we don’t like the music too much. With the Human League track we were really really happy to work with the vocals even though we didn’t like the original music because we liked his voice. On the Chicks on Speed remix we used just a few words and threw the rest away. Most of the time we put a lot of our own sounds into the remix or we work on the original sounds until you can’t tell where they are coming from.
HRFQ : Are there many remix offers that you turn down ?
Roman : Some, but not too many. The good thing is we mostly get to remix music that we think is interesting.
HRFQ : What is your take on the popularity of German artists at the moment ?
Roman : I think it’s good. I think it’s very very good. But it’s something German musicians have worked on for many years. The good thing is with the music scene in Germany is that people were able to grow for a few years. There is no hype behind the electronic music. It’s not like in England, for example, where now German music is popular but next year it will be an old model and there will be something new. In England musicians have had problems over the past few years putting out the music that they want to because every two months there is a new trend. There have been musicians like Baby Ford who have put out minimal music years but for the past five or six years nobody was interested. Suddenly they started to listen to this sort of music. The good thing was that in Germany we had an opportunity to grow with the sound.
HRFQ : So, you think this popularity is something that German artists have worked hard to earn ?
Roman : Yeah, but it is also because, like I said, there is a very strong scene and people don’t fight against each other. You have different scenes in every city but it’s not like…I don’t know. Everyone can do what he wants to do so you have a chance to grow. And it is no problem to have parties together even though you don’t work together that much. When it comes to a party, it’s a party.
HRFQ : Everyone raves about Berlin but you are based in Frankfurt, what is the difference between the two cities ?
Roman : First of all, the Berlin scene is mainly shaped by people from different cities all around Germany. If you were young and looking for some sort of adventure in the past ten years you headed to Berlin.
HRFQ : Richie Hawtin…
Roman : Well… Some people even come from Canada! So it is mainly shaped by people who come from different cities. The Frankfurt scene is basically shaped by people who grew up in Frankfurt. Now with Ricardo Villalobos, Zip and Perlon for example they moved to Berlin and now many people think they are from Berlin. But the other difference is that Berlin is like a 24 hour party scene. A lot of people go there just for fun, maybe they are supposed to go to university but they don’t, and so there are a lot of tourists going there for the parties. Frankfurt is much much more expensive so people have to work a lot. There are people working in banks blah blah blah, so it isn’t as vital in Berlin this party direction. That’s the basic difference I think. On the other side Frankfurt has always had a very strong electronic music background. Some of the most important clubs for electronic music have been in Frankfurt. There was the Dorian Grey in the 70’s which was the big airport discotheque, later the Omen when Sven Vath was playing. Now we have the Robert Johnson and the Cocoon Club so there are still good clubs going on.
HRFQ : Would you ever consider moving to Berlin ?
Roman : No! I mean, never say never. I was thinking about it for a couple of years but finally I am very much situated in Frankfurt with our label situation. We have our label in Frankfurt, it’s different people working together and some of them just don’t want to move to Berlinbut we need to work together. So the city is not as important as the company you find there.
HRFQ : Just to put you on the spot, do you have a message for your Japanese fans ?
Roman : Firstly, I have to say thank you. The second thing is, I can say that Alter Ego will be back with another album in 2007. We will produce it next year and then release it in 2007. I hope to be here again next year to play, hopefully two or three times. I don’t know, but it is always a huge pleasure to play here.
End of the interview
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